Tuesday afternoon, a ceremony was held on Treasure Island, formerly a Navy base, officially announcing the naming of the previously announced USNS Harvey Milk, the first Navy vessel dedicated to an openly gay LGBT person, in this case, a former Navy sailor who was discharged "less than honorably" as they said in his day, because it was found out he was gay and later became the first openly gay person elected to public office in the U.S.
NBC Bay Area was at the ceremony, as was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Supervisor Scott Wiener (who holds Milk's District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors), and Mayor Ed Lee, as well as Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
Mabus went as far at the event to say, "If anyone here, or anyone you know, was discharged for being a member of the LGBT community, and if they're interested, come back and let the Navy take another look at that discharge."
As the Chronicle reports, former Navy lieutenant Paula Neira, a transgender woman who served in the Navy under the name of Paul Neira, spoke of Milk’s legacy at the event as one of “honor, courage and commitment” and said “any sailor would be proud to sail in a ship like that.”
The 677-foot ship itself will be constructed at a Navy facility in San Diego and be completed in two years. As reported earlier, the ship will be a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler, and there are other vessels planned in its cohort to be named for late Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, and activist Sojourner Truth.
Milk's nephew, Stuart Milk, was at the ceremony, and he told NBC Bay Area, "He dreamed of this day. It really was what gave him the courage to take those bullets of the daily hate mail that he got."
And, in truth, as an openly gay man in San Francisco, Milk's connection to the Navy remained strong. According to a bio of Milk on the Facebook group that's been advocating for the Navy honor, Milk "wore a brass belt buckle bearing his Navy diver’s insignia until the day he died.”
Pelosi called Milk "irrepressible," and said, ""He had confidence in who he was. He had served our country in the military, and now he wanted to make our country more American."
In July, after the decision to name the ship was announced by the Navy, Supervisor Wiener said, "This momentous decision sends a powerful message around the world about who we are as a country and the values we hold. When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn’t tell anyone who he truly was. Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honor and support people for who they are."
Previously: US Navy To Name Ship After Harvey Milk